According to research commissioned by Vision Direct, the average American adult will spend the equivalent of 44 years of their life staring at screens. Yikes. One of the many ways this near-constant screen time is affecting our eyes is by messing with our blinking. The normal blink rate is 20 times per minute, but studies have shown that we only blink five to seven times a minute when looking at our screens, leading to eye dryness, irritation and other issues. While we can’t just quit our jobs and throw away our computers and phones, there are steps we can take to keep our peepers healthier. Here are five easy tips for folks who stare at screens all day, as suggested by optometrist Dr. Selina McGee.
1. Practice the 20/20/20 rule
Here’s how this one goes: Look at something 20 feet away from you for a period of 20 seconds every 20 minutes you spend on a screen. This will give your eyes an adequate break amidst all that screen time.
2. Practice blinking
We know, blinking seems like one of those things our body just…knows how to do. But because screen time interferes with our normal blinking patterns so much, it’s crucial to put in a little bit of work. Dr. McGee recommends this exercise. Blink and hold your eyes shut for three counts, then open your eyes and hold for two counts. Repeat a handful of times throughout the day—especially while looking at a computer, phone or TV.
3. Stay hydrated
Not to be a broken record, but hydration is so damn important for so many different reasons—including your eye health. Dr. McGee tells us that drinking water helps with eye dryness, adding that, unfortunately, way too many Americans are chronically dehydrated. She stresses how crucial it is to drink your weight in ounces per day.
4. Position your fan or air conditioner properly
Especially with warmer months quickly approaching, it can be tempting to park yourself right in front of a fan or air conditioner. Resist the temptation. Dr. McGee tells us that having a fan or A/C circulating and blowing air on your face and directly into your eyes can further dry out the front surface of the eye. We’re not recommending sweating all day, just moving a little further away from your beloved fan.
5. Try eye drops
In addition to all of the little tweaks and exercises above, Dr. McGee is a fan of using eye drops to ensure eyes are properly hydrated. She suggests trying a formula like REFRESH® DIGITAL (Dr. McGee works with the brand) to relieve dryness, burning, irritation, and discomfort in the eyes that may be due to digital device use. As part of a normal routine, you can use them at least twice a day, but if you’re staring at screens all day, Dr. McGee says the drops can and should be increased to four to six times daily.